Welcome to the Headmaster's Blog where you'll find updates, thoughts, and events regarding Saint David's School, the education of boys, and other items of interest. This is by no means meant to be a complete account of all that happens at Saint David's. Please refer to the school's website for more complete details -- it's more a Headmaster's musings.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Solar System Model and Rocket Launch in Pre-K STEAM Unit

Our Pre-K STEAM boys recently completed an exploration of the solar system through a hands-on, multi-faceted unit that integrates art and science and is a perfect example of the ways boys learn best.

The unit's purpose is to elicit the boys' knowledge about planets and the sun while dispelling common misconceptions, and to have the boys come to understand how humans are able to learn about objects that are so far away.

Once facts about the solar system were discussed and understood through teacher-led readings and viewing of NASA video footage and images, the boys put their new knowledge about the sun and planets to work, using tissue paper and decoupage to build a model of the sun in its three-dimensional fiery form. They later created a paper-mache solar system that featured details in colors and texture to match those of NASA images. As an example, the boys cut and hand colored chunks of "rocky and icy debris" to simulate the rings of Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Then, after seeing that humans were able to learn about the universe by launching spacecraft into space, the boys built and decorated their own paper rockets.

On launch day--as you can imagine, a most anticipated day--with their paper mache solar system hanging in the nearby distance, the boys stomp-launched their rockets to see how far into space they could travel.

Active, creative, engaging, harnessing their intellectual curiosity, teacher-guided yet student-directed, and grounded in science--these are some of the ways that boys learn best and which we employ at Saint David's from the youngest grades.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Broadway Bound - Saint David's Boys and Marymount Girls

The musical, about dreams, was a dream come true for us at Saint David's: the first production done in collaboration with Marymount School on the stage of our new Otto-Bernstein Performing Arts Theatre.

Last night, Saint David's After School Broadway Bound class performed Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for the Saint David's and Marymount communities. The production was, well, Amazing, in all respects: the lighting, costumes, set design, staging, and, of course, the performances by the cast of talented Saint David's boys and Marymount girls who participated in our new Broadway Bound After School program this spring.

The shared experience not only resulted in a Tony-worthy show, but the opportunity for our boys to collaborate with girls from Marymount and to benefit from the personal growth the comes from working hard on a production, and stretching beyond one's comfort zone.

Kudos to the cast members and creative team for putting on a spectacular show.  Special thanks to Director of After School and Summer Programs Irene Byun, Director of Music Jeff Moore, Upper School faculty member Shane Meals, Marymount Drama Chair and Saint David's current parent Rita Kitt and Marymount Head of School Concepcion Alvar for making this production possible.

Saint David's has a great tradition in the theater arts, dating back to the years of the Faculty plays and all of the performances associated with our program of studies. In the past, these productions had to be performed on makeshift stages, with little in the way of production design possible. All that has now changed! We look forward to more productions and collaborations.

Photography: Melanie Fidler and Tobias Everke

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Boys Learn Strategies to Approach Exams with Confidence and Reduced Stress

This week and last, Upper School Learning Specialist Consultant David May led workshops for our seventh and eighth graders as they prepare for their upcoming comprehensive exams. In the first, Mr. May outlined three areas of the brain that students rely on when studying: the hippocampus for memory and learning; the prefrontal cortex for organization and time management; and the amygdala for emotion and stress. He offered insights into each of these brain regions, as well as strategies for how to best study, plan for, and cope with exams.

Today, he offered additional strategies, discussing the details of each subject area, and how various organizational strategies and study techniques are best suited for particular academic subjects, as well as specific strategies aimed at managing emotions often associated with exams.

The boys actively participated in the discussions, eager to employ what they learned. They will now practice these strategies so that they can approach exam days confident and with diminished stress.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Author Aili McConnon Shares Story of Legendary Cyclist and Humanitarian Gino Bartali

Aili McConnon, co-author of Road to Valor, transfixed our seventh and eighth graders on Friday when she shared the story of her book's subject, Italian cyclist Gino Bartali.

Bartali, a 1938 and 1948 Tour de France winner, secretly helped the Italian Resistance during World War II by transporting forged identity documents in the frame of his bicycle and hiding Jews in an apartment he was able to afford with his winnings from cycling races.

Ms. McConnon, who is also the aunt to third grader Lachlan, explained how she and her brother, Andres, were able to trace Bartali's history, despite having few details to go on. There had been little published about the athlete, and many of those who had known him well were deceased.

This presentation resonated deeply with the boys in attendance. Our seventh graders give Chapel talks in the spring about exceptional people, like Bartali, who act as Agents for the Good in the world. Eighth graders, back from their Italian Study Tour, could appreciate how difficult it must have been for Bartali to cycle nearly 110 hilly miles between Florence and Assisi to shuttle forged identity papers under the watchful eyes of Nazis and Fascist guards at the checkpoints along the route.

We are most grateful to Ms. McConnon for sharing her time and stories with the boys, and also to Lachlan's mother, Lindsay, for introducing Ms. McConnon to the Author Series Committee Co-Chairs Ann Roberts and Liz Carey. Each year, The PA Author Series sponsors inspiring visits by published authors who discuss their works and the writing process with our boys.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Saint David's Participates in Diversity and Inclusion Conference at Dalton

Saint David's is committed to fostering an inclusive environment that respects and honors difference. Toward that end, a group of Saint David's community members recently participated in the 9th Annual Dalton Conference: From Diversity to Community.

Some of the Saint David's participants in the Diversity and Inclusion Conference.
From left: Pedro Morales, Michael A., Romuel P., Allison Vella, and Jessica Pagan.

The daylong program educates and trains school leadership to broaden and improve inclusion within the diverse communities of New York City's independent schools. This year's conference addressed the topic of implicit bias.

Each attending school sent a "pod" of participants from various constituent groups to the conference. Saint David's pod included Todd Cosenza and Don MacKinnon (Trustees), Allison Vella and Kim Davidson (Admissions), Romuel P. and Michael A. (Students), Lindsay Buhr and Evan Morse (Faculty), Pedro Morales and Jessica Pagan (Administration) and Kumar Kadiyala, Miguel Sanchez '97, and Will O'Boyle '94 (Parents and Alumni).

Following an inspiring and engaging talk by keynote speaker Jerry Kang, constituent groups met in breakaway sessions with their peers from other schools, sharing challenges and best practices related to the theme, before coming together to discuss where implicit bias may exist within themselves and in our school.

The group came away with actionable take-aways that we will address in a variety of areas of school life including curricular.  A significant one was the recognition that, while implicit bias is hard to change, awareness is important and the best way to counteract it is through our interactions and relationships with others who are different from ourselves.

This conference theme dovetailed perfectly with what we've been doing at Saint David's through our partnership with Dr. Derrick Gay and in our Committee on Community and Inclusion (COCI).  Earlier in the year, parents and faculty/staff participated in workshops based on the book Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People (Banji and Greenwald), which deals specifically with the ubiquity of implicit bias. 
Thank you to all of Saint David's participants for dedicating themselves to this important school initiative. Through our ongoing work with Dr. Gay, the various COCI and Boys Community Club activities and participation in the Dalton Conference, we continue to make strides in embracing difference in all of its manifestations. New York City has always benefited from the mosaic of its citizenry. As a school in this great city, and in line with the values of our school's mission, Saint David's is dedicated to advancing an ever-more inclusive, welcoming community.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Saint David's Receives Carnegie Hill Neighbors 2019 Enrichment Award

Last week, architect and Saint David's alumnus Sam White '60 and I had the honor of accepting the Carnegie Hill Neighbors 2019 Enrichment Award from CHN President Lo van der Valk at the CHN Spring Benefit. The award recognizes Saint David's thoughtful design and our collaboration with the Carnegie Hill community during the school's recent expansion and consolidation into Graham House.

We were commended for preserving the historical character of the restored facade of Graham House and for responding to and addressing community feedback throughout the many phases of a design/construction project that spanned several years. 

Saint David's strives always to be a good neighbor and receiving this award is much appreciated.

Today, our Graham House front door leads boys and teachers to an experience that has remained true to Saint David's form, but with exciting new possibilities. A glimpse into how our new facility is transforming teaching and learning at Saint David's can be seen in the video, below. To see CHN's coverage of the award in their Spring Newsletter, click here.


Friday, May 3, 2019

How Far Can It Fly?

Our first graders are exploring measurement and data with paper gliders. In this math investigation, the boys fold and fly simple paper gliders, construct Unifix cube trains to measure the distances that their gliders fly, and create tally charts that show the flight data collected by the entire class.

The boys then redesign their gliders or make new ones with the goal of improving the distances the gliders fly. They will collect and analyze a second round of data to determine whether their modifications made a difference.

Math investigations in the Lower School are a hallmark of our program. They tap into our boys' intellectual curiosity by enabling them to use active problem solving strategies to deepen understanding of concepts they have studied.

In Common Sense Media Teen Panel, Eighth Graders Advise Younger Boys on Media Use

Saint David's is committed to facilitating our boys' development into good digital citizens who engage in appropriate, safe, and healthy online behavior.  In this effort, the school partners with Common Sense Media. On Tuesday, Tali Horowitz and current parent Samira Sine of CSM facilitated a Teen Advisory Panel featuring our eighth graders Jack, Colin, and Will. Members of the Common Sense Teen Council, these boys have collaborated this year with CSM on a variety of topics related to navigating the digital landscape.

At Tuesday's panel discussion, the older boys answered questions that our fifth and sixth graders had generated in their Sophrosyne health and wellness class units on digital citizenship. The purpose of the panel was for our eighth graders, as leaders, to help the younger Saint David's boys know how to use technology wisely and responsibly.

Questions posed included what the older boys enjoy most about social media and You Tube, how they determine what to post (and what not to), cyber bullying issues, how to manage tech use so that it doesn't become distracting, and the ways in which technology may have helped them be more creative.

Hanging on every word spoken by the panel, the fifth and sixth graders listened like younger brothers receiving advice and wisdom from caring older siblings. The intellectual curiosity and seriousness with which Jack, Colin, and Will considered each question reflected a maturity and understanding among our eighth graders about the complexities of the digital world, as well as their commitment to the well-being of the younger boys.

What great leadership our eighth grade panel demonstrated in providing this experience for the fifth and sixth graders, and what a proud moment for our school!

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Saint David's Boys Win Prizes in CIVITAS Art Competition

Teddy and Kaz with their artwork on display at the CIVITAS benefit
Seventh graders Kaz and Teddy have won the second and third prizes in the CIVITAS Seventh Grade Art Competition. The contest was held in conjunction with the CIVITAS benefit Tuesday evening honoring the Frick Collection and its director, Ian Wardropper, for their commitment to preservation and community engagement. The boys won for their drawings of the Frick Collection facade.

From left: Ishaan, Liam, Caleb, Teddy, and Kaz, with Jeanne McAnaney, parent of alumnus Eamon '83 and CIVITAS Board Member.
Congratulations to Teddy and Kaz on their remarkable achievement, and to Ishaan, Caleb and Liam, who also submitted well-rendered drawings for the competition. Special recognition also to Art Chair Jenna Boccella and her team of art teachers who so expertly elicit the artist within our boys through a deliberate focus on observational drawing.

CIVITAS is a not-for-profit zoning and urban planning organization concerned with quality of life issues on the Upper East Side and East Harlem.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Saint David's Father and Son Dinner Featuring Mark Whitaker

Our annual Seventh Grade father and son dinner provides the opportunity for seventh graders and their fathers to share an evening exploring what it means to be a good man, the relationship between parent and son, and other mission-related themes.

The speaker at this year's event was author, journalist and media executive Mark Whitaker, who spoke about his memoir My Long Trip Home, in which he delves into the story of his family, in particular, his father. The son of a bi-racial couple who wed in 1956 (a time when interracial marriages were still illegal in some states), Mark spent many years estranged from his father, a brilliant African Studies scholar who struggled throughout his life with alcoholism.

Later, they would reconcile, but it was only after his father had passed away that Mark realized he wanted to write a book about this man who had had a groundbreaking career despite all his problems, and try to understand him better. Ultimately, the process deepened Mark's connection with his African American heritage and led him to a place of forgiveness and understanding.

Relationships between family members can be complex and Mark's message of the value in trying to truly understand people in their entirety through consideration of all of their experiences, resonated.

These Seventh Grade Father and Son dinners are always special to me. I love to see the boys with their dads spending an evening together at our school; and, this year, as the parent of a current seventh grader, it was even more special. Appreciation to Mr. Whitaker for his candid talk, and to Alumni Parent Dorothy Faux and John Dearie '95 for making this evening possible.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Boys Experience Democracy in Action

Saint David's sixth graders are in our nation's capital, where their study of American history culminates.

Over these three days, the boys are deepening their understanding of American history and government as they experience democracy in action. Sites they are visiting include Mount Vernon, the Monuments, the Capitol, the Supreme Court, the National Museum of American History, the National Air and Space Museum, and Arlington National Cemetery.

In a clear example of the critical analysis of ideas and issues central to our school's mission, the boys critically reflect on the themes of democracy when they visit each site, exploring our government's promise and challenges, its underlying values and issues, and the lessons of history. Their observations and analyses will inform the poems they write in English class.

This trip is also a great bonding experience for our boys, as they spend time in D.C. with each other and with their teachers exploring deep and important issues that impact all Americans.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Dinosaur Study by Omega Paleontologists

The Omega boys' integrated study of dinosaurs culminated in this morning's Dinosaur Presentation, one of my favorite Saint David's experiences.

During their spring study, the boys had opportunities to work in groups, use maps, conduct research, and explore the concepts of time periods and archaeology. Their study also included a field trip to the Dinosaur exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History.

In this morning's show, they presented facts about dinosaurs, recited poems, and sang songs. Some featured special verses written by Omega students reflecting their learning about dinosaurs, and others were among their favorites from music class, including one in Spanish.

The knowledge, confidence, singing ability, and stage presence of the presenters impressed us all. Well done, boys! The field of paleontology is well served by you!

Special thanks to Omega teachers Emily Cawley and Katy Jonas, and to Choral Director Phyllis Clark and Music Chair Jeff Moore for working with the boys on this delightful presentation.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Saint David's Partnership with DNA Learning Center for Barcoding Study

Through our school's partnership with the DNA Learning Center of Cold Spring Harbor, our eighth graders are working with Ms. Lee of DNALC and Saint David's science teacher Mr. Bell on a hands-on DNA unit that involves a series of increasingly complex labs conducted over several weeks, and culminates with an original DNA barcoding research project.

As the video shows, the boys are following the protocols and using the same tools for DNA extraction, including pipetters (highly precise tools that measure and transfer liquids) and centrifuges, used by DNA researchers in labs around the world.

The partnership with DNALC connects our boys in real and meaningful ways to the science of DNA, and, as our eighth grader notes, "It's a lot of fun!"